Forgotten Language is a collection of works by Amanda Amour-Lynx which are performative acts of cultural reclamation. It documents the pursuit for radical self-acceptance, evident by the messy, untangling process that ensues when recovering lost histories. Stories are embedded linguistically through mnemonic and symbolic coding, abstraction, body movements and stored memories. Language is place. Place is being.

These studies are stories of returning to a knowledge that was taken away, and are reactions to how colonialism has affected the artist personally and intergenerationally (focusing on matters concerning the relationship to time and place; the difficulty of familial roots; complex blood memory; being of mixed heritage; lateral violence; and internalized racism). Forgotten Language is Amanda’s intent to heal ancestral wounds through acts of restoring cultural literacy in herself, existing on various planes of being, undoing and reclaiming.

Title: Sacred Preserves
Medium: Resin casted cedar in antique Crown mason jar
Year: 2016

I heard about and wanted to learn the four sacred medicines, so I went on an urban foraging trip in downtown Toronto by myself. I was desperately seeking community but missing major cultural links for teachings. I looked in texts and diagrams beforehand to aid me in identifying the leaves of a cedar tree and found myself confused. After some time, I located some in a city planter along Bloor St. W in the Annex neighbourhood. 

I cast the clippings in resin.  The mason jar reads "Made In Canada" and is branded with a crown logo. The cedar suspended in plastic aptly describes my pursuit to reclaim my l'nu identity and yet I'm unable to access the information the way it was intended. 

Indigenous material culture is often  perceived as an antiquated commodity, a distilled moment of our history's shameful colonial past, marveled at in our museums and displaced from modernity. This is far from true, as we design futurities all the time with our creations.

Things may never return to their original state, if preserved in captivity and forever antagonized by social warfare and technocracy. 

Sacred Preserves (gif)

Mono no aware (物の哀れ), literally "the pathos of things", and also translated as "an empathy toward things", or "a sensitivity to ephemera", is a Japanese term for the awareness of impermanence (無常 mujō), or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life.

Sakura blossoms flower ephemerally in Spring, usually in late April and early May, creating a haze of mystical pale pink flowers. Sakuras bloom abruptly, and only for about a week. People participate in Sakura Hanami, which is Japanese for "cherry blossom viewing party".

In Toronto, Ontario, people also acknowledge this time by visiting the orchards planted here.

I have submerged sakura flowers in acrylic polymer medium. I confront personal memories in which I cannot speak in words through the ritual of capturing the blooms and submerging them. As the paint seals the flowers and dries, I observe the beautiful rosy hues turn brown and dull. They aren't quite like they were before.

Returning to a trauma site feels like chemical rigormortis. 

Mono no aware maybe the memory can be fleeting and shall come to pass.

Wkamulamun is the Mi'kmaq word for "heart of the tree", returning to the heartbeat of mother earth through the root. 

Title: Wkamulamun I (Heart of the Tree)
Medium: Acrylic and flowers
Dimensions: 6x6
Year: 2016

(Wkamulamun Detail 1)

(Wkamulamun Detail 2)

(Wkamulamun II Detail 1)

(Wkamulamun II Detail 2)

Title: Wkamulamun 2 (Heart of the Tree)
Medium: Acrylic and flowers
Dimensions: 6x6
Year: 2016

Title: Black Snake

Medium: Acrylic on wooden panel

Dimensions: 6x8

Year: 2016

This artwork responds to emotions felt regarding resource extraction, fossil fuel consumption, exploitation, specifically towards the Dakota Access Pipeline and its inevitable construction despite unconstitutional denials of land and treaty rights on Sioux Territory. It is also in acknowledgment of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline and Enbridge’s Line 3, spanning across Alberta and British Columbia, which were approved for expansion under the Trudeau-Trump government November 2016, although it was previously rejected by the previous governments due to concerns around safety, emissions, spills, and toxicity levels.

I Made a Nest Where No Bird Could Ever Rest
Basket, String, Wood

I explore traditional basket making for the first time. A sense of loss and despair is felt in the visual evidence of several generations of isolation from family and traditional systems, a byproduct of Canada's assimilation and erasing procedures. Drawing inspiration from Mi'kmaq visual artist Ursula Johnson's deviant basket sculptures, this piece documents my emotional and physical frustration of having little to no access to the mentorship, stories, tools or talent to learn this skill. This piece was created with up cycled and found materials that were readily accessible. Basketry and weaving is a foundational element of first cultures- clothing, and carrying vessels were early methods for sustenance and survival. 

The title for this work was inspired by Amber Dawn's poem, Autophobia.

Title: Body Is Land

Medium: Deer hide, beads, cowrie shells, ashes, leather cording, acrylic enamel paint

Dimensions: 6x31

Year: 2017

I engage in autobiographical storytelling through a mapping exercise with implicit symbolic meaning from my chosen materials. I bead a map of Toronto’s High Park onto a white acrylic paint skin embedded and textured by ashes I have collected of sacred  medicines and medicinal herbs between the months of August 2016 to March 3rd 2017. These include white sage, sweetgrass, tobacco, cedar, lavender flowers, rose buds, fennel, and catnip. The textures created by the ashes infer topographical qualities.  The ashes from the ritual act of spiritually cleansing oneself, creates residues in evidence of once needing healing and continuously needing healing. The remains in this act sullies the whiteness or smoothness of the paint creating lumps, forming memories. 

High Park beholds sacred sites for the Haudenosaunee including burial mounds and land-based cultural knowledge, however, these stories have been largely erased in our current day. 

I bead High Park's modern trails with primary colours because it's all I know of. I incorporate cowrie shells,  historically used by many earlier cultures (as currency, wampum belt beads used for treaty agreements, ritualism, occult works, etc). The form of the shell visually  represents the female archetype, fertility and the genitals.

With these symbols in mind, I pin locations in High Park connected to my trauma site. These mappings revisit the moments when I directed detectives while in their police car to the location of a sexual assault that occurred in May 2015. I enter the space of fight/flight/fawn/freeze, a biological shock response. In those moments, I failed to guide them to the location in the dark, despite being there only moments earlier. Through the process of beading, I try to reclaim my relationship to the park, and reconcile with the land. The object acts performatively to emulate a PTSD treatment called exposure therapy that aims to help individuals reintegrate into society. Psychological changes happen in the brain post-traumatically that impact the visceral organs and stress responses. I’ve pursued research since 2015 about the body-mind-spirit relationship; namely, the connections I have found between internal communication pathways: excessive hormone production (cortisol) causing late onset adrenal fatigue, the route of the vagus nerve, the cerebrospinal relationship to emotional processing, the gut microbiome, and the endocrine system. The final product resembles a ceremonial object in which I document a rite of passage from a past experience.


Title: Trading Post

Medium: Wall to Floor Installation, soil, slime, projection, digitally edited audio

Duration: 6min 36 seconds

Year: 2017

Trading Post
trading post

noun: trading post; plural noun: trading posts
a store or small settlement established for trading, typically in a remote place.

Trading post is a wall to floor installation that combines sculptural elements, digital projection and sound art that critically examines the dialectics between early settler-colonialism, modern resource extraction, the economy, and news media.

Clipped and composited audio overlays describe early portage routes, trade agreements, the origins of the Hudson Bay fur trade, news clips reporting on recent nuclear oil spills, tailing mines in Canada, ambient found sounds, and the US financial crash of 2008, as reported by dramatic TSX CNN news anchors. These audio overlaps prompt us to recall repetitions in history, linking past events into the scope of current politics. The narrative shifts back and forth from two polemic ideologies, exploiting their stark contrast from one another. The collaged sounds shift the lens back and forth in an uncomfortable manner, aided by creative sound experimentation. The work becomes multi-sensorial, as the audio accelerates into a crescendo of discomfort that is occasionally broken through the subtle humour, irony and trickster tactics of how the chosen excerpts interact with each other.

(Audio citations in progress)

Title: Reincarnate
Medium: Otter fur, moss, soil, acrylic, hot glue
Year: 2016

Nothing is discarded. Society hides, buries and removes what it can no longer use. Consumption culture devours the sacred. What is unseen, therefore ceases to exist. Nothing is finished. Nothing dies. What has been rejected, stifled and left for dead, will always come back

(Reincarnate Detail 1)

(Reincarnate Detail 3)

Title: Sacred Knowledge

Medium: Vintage encyclopedia, golden wax beans, soil

Dimensions: 9x12

Year: 2016

History has been written by those in power, to the exclusion of those deemed inferior. History speaks of discovery, victory, wars won, nations claimed, yet only through the eyes of the dominant culture. The western world dictates what is civilized and relevant, erasing the histories of all who have been colonized. Post contact, First Nations ways were ravaged and erased. Languages were lost with the inception of the residential schooling system in 1870, forcing English literacy and religious reform by rule of the Anglican church. What has become of indigenous ways of knowing and telling have been endangered, and almost entirely lost through this process. In this artwork, a 1954 edition of The New Pictorial Encyclopedia of the World has been made into a vessel for growing golden wax beans. The English text mutates and becomes undecipherable with soil, water log damage as the object breaks down, decays and deforms from its original state. Indigenous language and syntax is deeply rooted in the cycles of nature and the knowledge contained within human relationships to them. The book returns to sacred record-keeping and caretaking, intended to be spoken with not words, but through embodiment of ideology.

Title: Not Missing, Not Murdered

Medium: Vacuumform crop top on wooden panel

Dimensions: 12x12

Year: 2016

On the night of being sexually assaulted, I was driven by the police to Mt. Sinai hospital in Toronto, ON to complete a rape kit test. They opened a box with various envelopes with a sticker label for my file. I gave them swabs and cultures from my body, my undergarments and the shorts I was wearing that night as forensic evidence. I did not give them the shirt I was wearing as it hadn't come into contact with the perpetrator. The shirt remained on a hanger in my closet for a year, as it felt unsavoury to wear, donate or destroy. Quite like the packages used as forensic evidence, I sealed this shirt in plastic to cordon myself off from the memory, to encase and give closure to the event as a moment in time no longer in need of accessing, and to honour the energy and vibration of symbolism in the garment. I use it to tell my story.

(Not Missing, Not Murdered Detail 1)

(Not Missing, Not Murdered Detail 2)

Title: Abalone

Medium: Acrylic, holographic paper, plastic, fabric on stretched canvas

Dimensions: 8x11

Year: 2016

Title: Conception

Medium: Acrylic, fabric, beads on wooden panel

Year: 2016

Beadwork is used in indigenous craft, jewelry, ceremonial regalia and in government documents such as wampums. Wampums have been used in treaty agreements and preserve knowledge of historical events and cultural stories. Bead patterns operate like mathematical equations. Deep spiritual knowing is incorporated into the construction of beaded objects.

Conception is an attempt to connect with the process of beading and documents my first interactions with the medium. It is an exploration of my inner frustration and eagerness to learn this meticulous practice. It is a plea for mentorship from elders and knowledgekeepers so that I may preserve the practice for the next generation and connect to my ancestors. The meditative and ritualistic nature of beading demands patience, stillness and calculation. Emotional, physical and spiritual processing occurs in repetitive acts of making, opening the channel to have a conversation with the higher self and garners reflection upon one’s actions. The outcome of this work is how such things have manifested during this process.

Applying beads to the surface of acrylic paint skin performs as a flesh-like substrate. It infers didactic themes and concepts, merging the parallels in my identity and attempts to weave together unlike characteristics. It is a conversation with both my Mi’kmaq ancestry and my European roots. Within this identity I find peace and anger, matriarchy and individuation, self-mutilation and self-love, Contemporary art education reconciles with traditional indigenous knowledges, femininity and masculinity, violence and nurturing, direct and subliminal, creation and destruction.

This work is an act of forgiveness and apology to myself for not having elaborate beading skills. One must start somewhere. One must begin healing from a broken place. Conception is a dedicated effort to learn to bead, not for pleasure but as a political act.

(Conception Detail 1)

(Conception Detail 2)

(Conception Detail 4)

(Conception Detail 5)

Forgotten Language

Works by Amanda Amour-Lynx

05 March – 25 April 

Trinity Square Video

Curated by Karina Iskandarsjah.

Selected works from this collection were featured in TSV's vitrine space, accompanied by poetry, performance art video land is body, off-canvas paint sculptures, the mi'kmaq gathering song, and colourful mural design in expanded field painting.

Using Format